I’ve always been different. I knew that very early growing up as a person with a physical disability. Having cerebral palsy can leave you misunderstood by others, but I saw power in that. If people are reading you wrong, then you have the opportunity to help them understand who you are, and most importantly what you’re capable of.
 
My mission in life has always been to make a difference in the world. I never knew what that would involve or how to go about it, but I’ve forged down a lot of avenues in search of it. I have been doing volunteer work for most of my life and it’s been my way to find purpose since I’ve been struggling to gain employment since I graduated from college, and then university. Since I couldn’t get someone to hire me for a job, I just decided finally to create one! After all, is your life’s purpose determined by a paycheck? I didn’t feel that it was. So when the opportunity to join the Kiwanis Aktion Club of Lakeshore, a service club for adults with disabilities that is dedicated to working with other Kiwanis branches to help the children of the world, I jumped at it! I became a member in July of 2014 and am currently the acting Vice President. In my mind I have a job, a purpose. And I planned to take that as far as I could.
 
  
 
After being turned away by a lot of volunteer groups to do international volunteer work because they didn’t think I could be “useful”, I found Live Different. I was just doing yet another online search one day and happened to stumble across the website. Not expecting anything much, I sent an email to inquire about what their Academy program was about. That started the email correspondence with Jenn at Live Different, and when I told her about my disability, she acted like it was no big deal. Suddenly somebody saw what I could do regardless of the fact that I had two forearm crutches in my hands when I walked. It was the most awesome feeling ever. I’d found my chance!
 
Julia Roberts said in the movie Steel Magnolias (one of my favorites!), “I’d rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.” Well if you ask me, I’m getting way more than thirty minutes and I can’t wait to embark on this adventure! After all it’s not what people think you can do, but what you actually do that really matters – and I think, I know, that I and the rest of my Academy team members can make an impact.
 
– Melissa, Live Different Academy Student, Fall 2015

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